26 October 2011

Where Do The Brits Go From Here?

There's a lot of angst about the future of the British army, which the Economist sums up in a recent article.

His review starts from the premise that whatever the tactical successes of the British army in Iraq and Afghanistan, those campaigns have not worked out well overall. It also makes a number of other assumptions. The first is that the next few years will be dominated by “getting off the Afghan hamster wheel”—extracting men and equipment from Afghanistan in good order and deciding which bits of kit to keep and which to leave behind. The second is that by 2020, after troops have come home from Germany, the army will be almost entirely based in Britain for the first time in generations. The third is that the army must move to a “contingency” posture rather than a campaigning one, putting the onus on adaptability.

It looks as if one of the ideas in the SDSR—that there should be five essentially identical multi-role brigades—will be quietly junked in favour of “tailoring the force for the challenge” around two light and two heavy brigades which will draw on other resources as needed. Although a good deal of the army’s heavy armour and artillery will be mothballed or scrapped, investment in tactical-level networking—a key lesson from Afghanistan—will be given priority. Where deep cuts are made, the emphasis will be on preserving institutional readiness by retaining just enough skills, expertise and equipment to regenerate capabilities quickly.

General Carter’s review is also putting a lot of emphasis on “upstream” conflict prevention and capacity-building. The army already carries out training missions in bits of the Middle East and Africa, but the idea is to go much further, with around 3,000 of its people actively engaged around the world. As well as making future wars less likely, Sir Peter hopes that this will attract bright and culturally sensitive people to an army career. And if the army is called upon to fight in far-flung places, the hope is that it will know more about them than it did when it pitched up in Basra or Helmand.

By: Brant

No comments: